Breakfast with the Mayor, March 4, 2013

Past Event Tags: Breakfast with the Mayor.

A small but dedicated group attended the March 2013 Breakfast with the Mayor, held at the Black Bear Diner, to talk to Kevin Romick about some of the topics of the day:


CentrOmart building, Oakley, photographed in September 2012

The proper disposal of the CentrOmart building is a challenge.

The dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency restricts the possible uses to which the City can put this building, which has more problems (e.g. asbestos) than originally realized. Right now either the City has to put the building to its own use (the library would have qualified, if it could have raised funds) or sell it to D.G. Market, the only bidder that qualified under the previous rules. (That bid was withdrawn because the original proposal for a small grocery store was taken off the table and replaced with a proposal for a dollar store, not something we want in the heart of Oakley’s new downtown.) Reports from the Chamber’s inside agent say that the building, while not actually unsafe, desperately needs cleaning, since there’s blood on the walls in the former meat department, and doesn’t smell very good.

The mayor did investigate the possibility of turning the building into (or replacing it with, if demolition would be less expensive than remodeling) a covered craft-and-food market like those found up in the Wine Country. The one he checked out cost about $12 million to build, however, and took some years before it really started generating income. Also, those cities attract a lot of tourists, who spend money in said markets. Right now, the City of Oakley can’t afford to make that kind of investment and doesn’t attract tourists.

Various members of the Chamber proposed converting the CentrOmart building into a business incubator/co-working location to serve Oakley’s many home-based businesses and help those that want to transition from home offices to external offices. This might be combined with conference space that anyone in the community could rent. The mayor liked the idea, but again, the City doesn’t have the money to invest, and until the succession from Redevelopment concludes, it won’t even be possible for an investor who wanted to convert the building to that use to bid on it. (After that time, yes, anyone who thought that creating a business incubator in the middle of the city would be a good investment would be entirely welcome to bid on the property, but such a person would need to be aware that it would take a few years at least for said investment to pay off.)

The Library

The City is looking into alternative possibilities for a downtown library, as there are many good reasons to move the library downtown, but the Friends of Oakley Library still need to come up with some kind of fundraising plan.

The Special Council Meeting

It’s a team-building exercise. The public is welcome to attend and watch the council members and staff embarrass themselves. [Editorial comment: this will likely be as useful as most corporate team-building exercises: it will generate lots of good will and camaraderie during the event (among those not squirming with discomfort), and afterwards everyone will go back to doing exactly what they always did.]

The Fountain of Controversy and Other Oakley Plaza Upgrades

A pedestrian overpass will connect City Hall with the new Oakley Plaza. The palm trees will be relocated. When Ace Hardware takes over the buildings at the rear of the plaza, they will refurbish the facades to match the style of the new buildings in the front. New signage will help compensate for the blocked view of the rear buildings. (And yes, they’ve managed to cut back on some of the expense of the fountain.)


The parking lot of contention has now been repaved, and it’s possible to enter from Vintage in either direction. The road crews will be moving to the other side of Main this week, opening the Main Street entrances to said parking lot.

Republic of Cake

What hasn’t been widely reported is that not only does Republic of Cake‘s Orinda store get customers from the Brentwood/Oakley/Antioch area who would doubtless prefer to shop closer to home, they have a substantial wholesale business that will benefit from the added space in the Oakley location and which doesn’t depend on a huge local demand. (They sell to Lunardi’s, Diablo Foods, and Berkeley Bowl West, among other stores.)

Regarding the investment in the building and the loan offered to Republic of Cake, “People keep telling us that they want a downtown with unique small businesses,” Mayor Romick said. “They’re not lining up to get in, so we have to provide the first few with incentives. Over time the incentives will get smaller, until Oakley is such a desirable location that we don’t need to offer them anymore.”

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